Lots of snow and winter weather brings a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the front yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could result in serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen, you might need to contact a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s several tasks you can do to keep this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Frequent locations for exposed pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Properly insulating uncovered water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll likely have access to many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.

Try not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they may be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes by yourself, popular insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in various lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to put in more insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that can permit cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only will this help to prevent your pipes from freezing, but it will have the extra benefit of making your home more energy efficient.

Five More Ways to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing:

  • Open the cabinet doors. Opening the cabinet doors underneath the sinks and other spaces of your home that have pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets move even just a little can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially important if you struggle with a room that is generally colder or hotter than other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep down – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get lower at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s not difficult to know when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for days or even weeks?

As with the main residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to try at first.

Other Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you turn the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and breaking. Don’t forget to clear the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to help.